Question of the Week: What’s the Next Step?

Lisa writes:

I have a younger brother who is not observant. Recently, he has been showing interest in Yiddishkeit. I’m concerned about being pushy or not supportive enough. Do I refer him to classes, a book, a Rabbi, something else? Any advice would be appreciated.

13 comments on “Question of the Week: What’s the Next Step?

  1. Lisa might want to contact The Jewish Heritage Center of Queens and Long Island, run by Rabbi Portnoy and Rabbi Turk. They have a lot of outreach programs designed for searching young people. The phone number is 1-888-4-JUDAISM.

  2. Since Purim falls on Sunday this year, it makes a great opportunity to spend the weekend experiencing Shabbos and then Purim in the right atmosphere.

  3. In making specific suggestions, it would be helpful to know the ages of the siblings, and where they live; both with parents, both on their own, etc.

    Generally speaking, Shabbat dinner, with a brief explanation of Shalom Aleichem, Aishet Chayil and Kiddush will be a great springboard for Lisa’s brother to ask questions.

    Purim will soon be here. Besides its own spiritual and historical importance, it offers parallels to life today; the seductiveness of assimilation, the need to fight anti-Semitism even when we assimilate, and when we overcome anti-Semitism, the opportunity to grow spiritually rather than return to business as usual. That is the choice that the Jews made in post-Haman Persia. Under Mordecai’s leadership, they began working towards a return to Eretz Yisrael and the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash. May we merit leaders of a similar caliber, and the intrinsic motivation, to propel ourselves in the same direction.

  4. I think that some kind of Shabbos experience would be great for your brother. If he’s in the teen years, then an NCSY Shabbaton might be appropriate. Otherwise, for those past the teenage years, a Discovery or Aish HaTorah shabbos could be “just the thing.” If you are in the New York City area, there are programs like the Manhattan Jewish Experience and Hineni which run interesting classes and seminars. Possibly a “weekend immersion” in Orthodox Judaism might be more helpful to your brother, in terms of experiencing it personally, and also for the opportunity to meet with many intellectual people who can answer tons of questions.

  5. I agree that it’s critical to make your brother know that you are available to him for questions, support, etc. A book or link can be a positive benefit but I don’t think you should give such a general one. You know your brother so you know whether he is philosophical, whimsical, spiritual or some other -al. Send him something that’s tailored to him.

  6. One main focus is just to listen to the others interest and questions. Another is positive experiences like Shabbos. If you want to give reading material “Jewish Matters” is a small book by R Doron Kornbluth, that focuses on basic ideas.
    Enjoy the shared experiences.

  7. I think Rabbi Tatz’s Living Inspired far better for the neophyte than Rabbis Donin’s & Kaplan’s books. To be a Jew and Rabbi Kaplan’s books are great after one is ready to take a deeper look into practice. I’m not sure you want to submit a book to anyone that says that anyone who doesn’t live within walking distance to a shul is not serious as said in To be a Jew. That statement alone may turn off someone who is showing interest.

  8. I’ve given many beginners books and looking back I think they are overwhelming for the beginner. Too much material and too much time to read.

    The Internet gives us the ability to send links of shorter interesting articles and that’s how I would start now.

    My two top recommended sources would be

    Send one, wait a week and then ask him if he read it and what he thought.

  9. If your brother has shown interest, he must have mentioned some specifics (motivations, subject areas…) about his interest. These specifics should guide you in future discussions, offers to help, etc.

  10. I would suggest giving him a copy of Chaim Halevy Donin’s “To Be a Jew.” Invite him for Shabbos, tell him he can come for Shabbos anytime, find out if if there is an Orthodox synagogue anywhere near him and suggest he try it out for Shabbos.
    Give him a $100 gift certificate to a kosher restaurant.

  11. I think the best thing to do is let him, and if possible, your parents, know that if he ever wants to talk or has questions that you’d be happy to help.
    Of course this depends greatly with your own relationship with your parents.

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